When deciding who to interview for this assignment I immediately
thought of a close family friend who resides in the Bay Area. We
initially attempted to talk on the phone, but scheduling conflicts
made that difficult. He agreed to an email interview with me and upon
reading his responses I grew very intrigued by his experiences and now
want to know more. I have known him on a personal level for a long
time and although I was aware of his business experiences, I never had
the opportunity to discuss his professional life with him. He has
experienced a lot since he first got his start in college and he
provided very honest, insightful answers to my questions.
My first thought after hearing (or reading) what he had to say, was
that entrepreneurs are not all the same. What makes an entrepreneur is
the desire to succeed and try something different. We can all be
entrepreneurs if we want to be and if we are willing to put our skills
to work. These can be skills that we naturally possess or those that
we learn. What I found the most interesting is how he views failure.
Perhaps this is just me being naive, but I didn’t really take failure
into account when I thought about entrepreneurial endeavors. I really
appreciated his answer to the question about failures because he is
the type of person to learn from those experiences and grow from them.
I think that is an important piece of advice for anyone in any field.
He related success and failure to baseball, which I know nothing
about, but he made a great point. “Business is similar in the sense
that failure is an everyday thing – it’s how you deal with it that
defines you and your success.” We should all take note of that as we
go about our lives and our endeavors, whether personal or
professional, because you never want to miss out on an opportunity for
a learning experience.
What qualities do you possess that has helped you be an entrepreneur?
First off, I don’t think there is a special sauce for being a
successful entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs in different industries have
different skills sets that allow them to thrive in those specific
areas. However, one quality I do believe most successful entrepreneurs
possess is the ability to think outside the box, and come up with
ideas others wouldn’t fathom. Now these ideas won’t always be good
ones – in fact most aren’t – but they help guide you to the gems.
Other qualities I possess which I think have helped me are a strong
drive to succeed, the ability to elicit and be open to
feedback/constructive criticism of my ideas, and most important,
surround myself with the best people.
How did you get your start?
My first real entrepreneurial experience was in my junior year of
college. As a history major with no tax experience, I got the grand
idea of learning how to do federal and state income taxes. I bought a
book on how to fill out the forms, and checked out a couple reference
books from the library. Studying and going through the practice
forms, I was proficient (enough) in a few weeks. Once February and
March rolled around, I started telling my friends that I was an expert
in doing taxes. I did their’s for free and in return then spread the
word about my little business. Before long, I had 40 or so of my
college classmates asking me to do their taxes for them… for a nominal
fee, of course. This was my first crack at a real business, and it
taught me some very valuable lessons.
From a professional standpoint, I started in real estate, first as a
loan officer and then as a real estate agent. Most of my
entrepreneurial endeavors are focused around the real estate industry,
and have been since.
Have you had any experiences that you consider failures?
I don’t consider any entrepreneurial experience a failure – rather an
opportunity to learn and grow. I’ve started businesses that have
failed and I’ve lost money on them. But I’ve grown from those
mistakes, and learned what not to do. This has allowed me to steer
away from those traps, and has been inherently valuable.
How do you overcome failure as a businessman?
Beyond considering failure just another way not to do something, it
can be difficult to overcome a failed attempt. I think having a short
memory helps, while keeping the lessons you learned tucked away for
future use. If you fail once, you have to get back up and try again.
Some of the greatest entrepreneurs and businessmen have failed
numerous times, yet still have become very successful (i.e. Donald
Trump). I think business and baseball are very similar – the greatest
hitters fail 7 out of 10 times. Business is similar in the sense that
failure is an everyday thing – it’s how you deal with it that defines
you and your success.
What business advice would you offer the nonprofit community?
The playing field is different in the non-profit sector, so things are
very different. But just like in business, you have to find the area
where there is pent up demand but limited supply. In business that is
so you can capitalize on the market and make money. But in non-profit
I think you can take a similar approach – you can help more people and
have a greater chance of influencing change.